Key paragraph: “Today the title of ‘most stigmatized female vocal trait’ has passed from uptalk to the newer phenomenon of ‘vocal fry’ (in linguists’ terms, creaky voice). Similarly, ‘just’ has inherited the mantle of the tag question (as in, ‘it’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?’), a popular target for advice-writers when I surveyed their products in the 1990s. The critics’ pet peeves may change over time, but the criticism itself is a constant.”
In other words, women are targeted. Specifically. Because “vocal fry” is used to create a deeper, i.e. more masculine vocal tone. Let’s put to bed, forever, the idea that if women become more masculine, women will be more accepted. That’s BS because the real issue is sexism. Femininity is irrelevant to sexism – the relevant factor is that the person being dismissed and belittled isn’t a man.
This week everyone’s been talking about an article in the Economist explaining how men’s use of language undermines their authority. According to the author, a senior manager at Microsoft, men have a bad habit of punctuating everything they say with sentence adverbs like ‘actually’, ‘obviously’, ‘seriously’ and ‘frankly’. This verbal tic makes them sound like pompous bullshitters, so that people switch off and stop listening to what they’re saying. If they want to be successful, this is something men need to address.
OK, people haven’t been talking about that article—mainly because I made it up. No one writes articles telling men how they’re damaging their career prospects by using the wrong words. With women, on the other hand, it’s a regular occurrence. This post was inspired by a case in point: a piece published last month in Business Insider, in which a former Google executive named Ellen Petry Leanse…
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